Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Review for The Boys in the Bunkhouse

I’m go to a lot of book clubs through the Davenport Public Library: Shorts & Sweets, Stranger than Fiction, See YA, and the West End. I have to confess the reason I joined all these clubs is because I get intimidated whenever I walk into the library or a book shop—I’m overwhelmed by all the choices. Is that fear of the unknown or laziness? I can’t do the research? Whatever, it’s a long-standing problem I solved by having someone else pick out the books I read. I’ve only had a few that I couldn’t finish. Many have been wonderful discoveries.

The perfect case in point was reading The Boys in the Bunkhouse by Dan Barry for Stranger than Fiction. It’s a new-this-year book club. I’ve found the selections a bit of a rocky road for me. These non-fiction books can be totally eye-opening or not, an easy read or a challenging one. Reading about the boys from the bunkhouse in Atalissa, Iowa, practically in my back yard, was definitely an amazing experience that I wouldn’t have had any other way.

I enjoyed Dan Barry’s writing for both style and the in-depth research. He found the most amazing tidbits of information and skillfully wove them into the fabric of his text.

Thank you, Bill Fuhr and the rest of the Davenport library staff, for a great experience.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Review of the Replacement

Author Bianca Sierra-Luebke uses masterful plotting to create a believable world that’s a blend of science fiction and fantasy. The Replacement: Book 1 of the Replacement Series is an ambitious world-building introduction to seventeen-year-old Angelica Franklin as she transitions away from her humanity. Angelica’s captors use their own blood to mold her into a being that’s supposed to be a replacement, a Lymerian that will find a place in their highly-ordered society. They don’t get the what they were expecting. Angelica emerges strong, fearless and wanting answers for the years of secrets and lies. The ending is a cliffhanger that gives the reader a hint at the answers yet to come.

The above is what I wrote when I finished the book and wanted to get something posted to Amazon and Goodreads to let the author know she had one more review. She’s up to twelve. Not bad.

What I didn’t talk about in my haste to get the posts up was how impressed I was with her writing style. It’s crisp, clean and hits all the important plot points without overdoing it. That’s good in this case because she has a lot of action to cover timewise, fifteen years’ worth, in the small space of this book. On top of that she’s worldbuilding a complex society of aliens that aren’t necessarily all that alien anymore. She’s introducing new terminology. And, of course, laying the groundwork for all kinds of conflict: between individuals, between the main groups, between the long-lived Lymerian’s and those pesky humans who aren’t as primitive as they once were.

Did I mention Author Bianca Sierra-Luebke wrote her book in first person PRESENT tense? It’s something YA authors strive for these days and not all can pull off with consistent good results. It works well here, and I was quite a way into the book before I caught on. Kudos for that.

My only problem was losing track of who was speaking occasionally. Backtracking on dialog tends to drop one out of the narrative. Using a lot of “He says” or “She says” is a pain, but it keeps the reading pace going and they really don’t register after a while.

Now, the ending. The fact that this is part of a series was made clear up front. I can’t find fault with that. The ending is good. We readers have a lot more to find out about our protagonist. And there were a lot of juicy, tantalizing hints aimed at a great world-changing struggle ahead, but I must admit I wanted a bigger ending for this first book. However, I’m thinking that when the series is complete maybe all the books can be combined into one volume—the story line will be fluid and connected and grand—an epic saga in its own right. One can hope.